SpaceX CEO Elon Musk expects the Starlink satellite broadcasting service to be “fully mobile” later in 2021, allowing customers to use satellite dishes away from home.
“Yes, it should be fully mobile later this year, so you can take it anywhere or use it on an RV or truck in motion. We need a few more satellite launches to achieve comp(l) regional coverage & some key software upgrades,” Musk wrote on Twitter Thursday.
SpaceX revealed a portion of its mobile plans last month when it asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to deploy a modified version of its user terminal on spacecraft. But while that application is for a non-deployable version of the terminal with “mountings that allow them to be installed on vehicles, ships, and aircraft,” Musk’s comment about Starlink was ” fully mobile” later this year in reference to the standard terminal that was rolled out to beta customers a few months ago.
Musk was responding to a person who asked, “Will users always be locked into one location or in the future if a user has a standard Dishy McFlatface (not a new mobile), can you say put it on an RV or a small house? Or maybe take the one you have in Iowa and put it in a studio in Texas (?).” Musk’s affirmative response suggests that the Starlink environment will be widespread enough later this year for users to take Dishy McFlatface anywhere and get Internet service.
Starlink terms of service tell The terminal is “for use exclusively at the address provided in your order,” but some users have traveled with their terminals and taken up employment elsewhere. Musk wrote in another tweet On Thursday Starlink said “uptime, bandwidth & latency are improving rapidly,” and the service will likely be out of beta this summer.
Cover for “most of the Earth” this year
Starlink is advertising beta service speeds of 50Mbps to 150Mbps, with latency of 20 ms to 40 ms. Musk said in February that speeds will hit 300Mbps later this year and that the service will come to “most of Earth” by the end of 2021. SpaceX has launched 1,445 broadcast satellites into low Earth orbits, according to statistics kept by astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell. SpaceX has 1,351 operating satellites in orbit after accounting for those that have been de-orbited, disabled, or re-entered the atmosphere after failure. SpaceX has an FCC license to launch 12,000 satellites and has applied for permission to launch an additional 30,000.
SpaceX is accepting pre-orders for the Starlink mission to be available in the second half of this year, but slots are limited in each region. Those limits should help avoid capacity problems that would arise if Starlink were to become widespread in any given area, and this would make it more likely that users could travel with “fully mobile” foods and also employed.
SpaceX is charging $99 per month for Starlink with $499 up front for equipment, and the company says it will make pricing simple and transparent after it exits beta, which will happen when “the network is trust.” SpaceX has an FCC license to deploy up to one million consumer terminals in the US and has asked the FCC for permission to deploy up to 5 million.
Starlink faces continued opposition
While Starlink is gaining traction among users because it can provide modern broadband speeds to areas neglected by large Internet providers, the SpaceX project has also faced a steady stream of opposition. A Wall Street Journal article today said that “Elon Musk’s Internet satellite investment has spawned the phenomenon of an alliance of competitors, regulators and experts who say the billionaire is building a near-monopoly that is threatening the safe space and the environment.” Other satellite companies “concern that Mr. Musk’s satellites are jamming the signals of their own devices and have endangered their fleets,” the statement said.
“It’s a race to the bottom in terms of getting as much stuff in there as possible to claim orbital real estate,” the professor said. Moriba Jah of the Department of Aerospace Science and Engineering at the University of Texas, according to the Journal. “Musk is doing what is legal… but the law is not safe or sustainable.”
As reported in the previous area, Satellite Network and Amazon fighting SpaceX’s satellite plans. (Amazon is planning a rival constellation.) Internet service providers who oppose SpaceX’s rural broadband funding have urged the FCC to direct that funding elsewhere. Meanwhile, astronomers are worried about Starlink and other large satellites harming their ability to observe the night sky.